“Perhaps that is where our choice lies — in determining how we will meet the inevitable end of things, and how we will greet each new beginning.” ― Elana K. Arnold, Burning
adaptability, C. Joybell C., change, confidence, control, fear, flexibility, girls, international day of the girl, leading women of the world, letters to my younger self, letting go, mistakes, options, reinvention, unpredictability
Today is International Day of the Girl.
My heart aches for all of the girls, all over the world, who cry silently, who cannot speak the things that they want to say, who believe that they will never have the opportunity to be who they long to be. I pray that each will be convinced–at an age much younger than mine–that her unique beauty is needed in this world. That she has the opportunity to amplify her voice, no matter how desperately others might try to diminish it.
I have been inspired to write about what I would tell 15-year old me recently, by today’s CNN slideshow featuring some of the world’s leading women answering the same question and by a book, purchased over a year ago: What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self.
For me, answering this question will take the form of a multi-post essay. (Apparently I have much to say to myself.)
But for today this is what I would say to my younger self:
“Rachel, there are many ways for things to work out. The world will not end if you make the wrong decision, if you turn the opposite way on the path, if you try something and fail. If necessary, you can make a U-turn down the road. You can start over. You can find a way to do it differently. You can forgive yourself. Every single day, you can choose to change your mind. This is not a life or death decision.”
In essence–quoting C. Joybell C.–I’d say: “Rachel, you can always take a cab.” I didn’t know about cabs at 15. I thought that being in the wrong place at the wrong time meant that I would miss my one and only ride. Nearly every day, every hour, I was terrified of making a fatal mistake. I’m so grateful, at 44, to see options abounding and surrounding me!
What would you say to yourself at 15?
acceptance, autumn, change, climate, ecclesiastes, fall, grief, highly sensitive person, letting go, loss, mark halperin, melancholy, nostalgia, quiet, SAD, season, seasonal depression, seasons, self-worth, sheryl paul, solitude, stillness, transition, weather
Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change. – Edwin Teale
I’m writing this on a gorgeous fall Minneapolis day. It is so beautifully warm and clear-blue skied outside that we could be forgiven for disputing the major climatic transition this part of the world will soon face.
My body will adjust as it always does, but for now it is screaming at me what most of you do not yet hear: “Go to sleep! Dress up warm! Go inside! Be alone! Start a fire! Contemplate!” I know that what we see when looking out the window today does not warrant this pattern of behavior. No matter; my body simply knows.
While others are outside soaking up the sun, jumping into piles of leaves, hosting bonfires and running marathons, I am already on the fast track to a more solitary existence. The life of the highly sensitive person is not one that allows for sudden adjustment to a change in direction, particularly during a powerful seasonal change. The highly sensitive organism that is my body doesn’t give me the option of procrastination or denial.
This is clear: I am a being of nature. I am moved and powered by its cycles as surely as a tree or a river, a monarch or a goose. My God uses these cycles to form and make me, just as a rock is softened and shaped by the water that presses upon it, tide after tide.
While this is fact for all of us, my body will not permit me to ignore this truth. And though the frustrations created by this are obvious, it also presents a gift. Because there is always a gift that accompanies a challenge.
One of those gifts is surely the opportunity to become less production-oriented for a while. Not that I have less to do or can entertain long days of doing nothing. But internally, my addiction to recognition and the checking off of to do lists is tempered by a healthy humility.
Acknowledging my human limitations, I embrace once again the certainty that my value is not tied to what I accomplish. I let go of the notion that I am not worthy if I am not achieving, doing, making noise, being busy. This is not an easy adjustment for me. It is forced upon me. And for this I remind myself to be thankful. For we will all be there at some point on our journey. If not today, one day soon. This is another opportunity to live what I say I believe.
So I fall into the sleep of the dead on a golden, sunny afternoon, waking a little unburdened but still cotton-headed and anxious and headachy enough that I am forced to seek out even more stillness and simplicity. The tears that spontaneously fall point me toward the emotions and memories and burdens I still need to let go.
“To everything there is a season. Turn, turn, turn.” – Ecclesiastes 3. What a wise and compelling and timeless truth!
I’m already looking forward to my annual fall retreat, which takes place during the first weekend of November. For me, the silence and stillness this quiet getaway provides each year brings autumn’s greatest gift to reverent fruition: I will let go.
Autumn: The Season of Letting Go
“We’ve all experienced that moment when the scent or feeling of fall arrives on a summer breeze. The air may still be hot with summer’s breath, but the winds of change signal that a new season is arriving. Actually, although summer officially begins on June 21st, the equinox marks the shift where the days of increasing light turn to days of diminishing light, creating the paradox that characterizes all transitions: just as we are expanding into summer’s fullness we’re simultaneously contracting into the shorter days that will reach a decrescendo when autumn hands the baton to winter. In this sense, autumn has been breathing inside summer’s aliveness all along.
Autumn is the quintessential season to illustrate the key features of transitions. Where winter is the season of reflection, spring the season of rebirth, and summer the season of celebration, autumn is the time when we align with the action of nature and ask ourselves the central question of any life transition, “What is it that I need to let go of?” Perhaps it’s your habitual thoughts of worry or anxiety; perhaps it’s your tendency to nit-pick or criticize your partner; perhaps it’s getting angry at your kids; perhaps it’s the inner critic, the voice that’s constantly telling you that you’re not a good enough wife or mother or person. Whatever it is can be blown down to the ground alongside autumn’s leaves and decompose into the earth when we choose to consciously focus on that which needs to be released.
Autumn is also the time when memory often floods your emotional body. As your kids leave for the first day of school, you may remember those early school days from your own childhood. Whether the memories are positive or negative, you’ll find yourself pausing for a moment, as Mrs. Zuckerman did, in the bittersweet realm of nostalgia where you become exquisitely aware of the passage of time. Another summer over, another school year beginning, another autumn at your doorstep. If the memory is positive, you might dwell for a few moments in the happy feelings. If the memory is painful, it’s an opportunity to allow the feelings to swell up inside you until they bubble into a tears and notice how they roll down your cheeks like the leaves dropping outside.
As we notice ourselves, so we notice our children and observe what aspects of themselves they’re naturally shedding. Children are constantly in transition, and when we understand them through this lens, we can facilitate their seasons of change and growth more gracefully. Perhaps your child is getting ready to start middle school. Perhaps you’ve just moved to a new town and you’re helping your kids adjust to the multitude of losses and new beginnings that surround them. Perhaps your baby is turning into a toddler and learning to assert her own voice. Perhaps there are negative habits or attitudes that your child is trying, in his childlike way, to release. Again, when you align yourself with the action of this season, you will find creative ways to help your kids release the old habit, identity, or lifestyle and guide them as they become accustomed to their new role.
I’ve been watching my older son, Everest, grow into his big boy self over the past six months. In a few weeks, he’ll turn six, and as he approaches this significant milestone he’s been shedding aspects of his little boy self. On the summer solstice we enacted a family ritual where we each wrote down onto leaves things we wanted to release, then threw the leaves into the creek to be transformed by the fairies of the solstice into positive attributes. Encourage by my husband and me, Everest wrote down that he wanted to let go of his habitual whining. Perhaps it’s because we’ve given it our attention or perhaps some magic does occur during rituals, but whatever the reasons the whining has decreased significantly. On the autumn equinox, we’ll enact another ritual and ask for help letting go of the same habits.
In William Bridges’ beautiful book, The Way of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments, he writes, “Since a loss is best seen as the cue that it is time to let go of the inner thing, one of the first things a person in transition needs to ask is: ‘What is it time for me to let go of?’” As the leaves change color and fall, as you sit in front of a crackling fire, as you watch the golden late afternoon sunlight cast itself across the yard, ask yourself, “What is it time for me to let go of?” And when the answer appears, throw it into the leaves and the fire and the sunlight and ask for autumn’s aid to help you let go.”
– Sheryl Paul
beloved, change, childhood, children, courage, faith, first job, first paycheck, growing up, high school, independence, intimacy, Jennifer Richardson, journey, letting go, love, parenting, parents, progress, Ripplespeak, steps, teenager, tending to the turn, trust, wonder years
The boys finally return from their four dreamy summer weeks on Georgian Bay (Canada) on Friday.
Jeremy and I left them behind a couple of weeks ago, returning home on our own. The time has flown by as busy-ness with work, friends, and various projects–the ones that seem to never get done–have filled our days.
Our major focus though, has been redesigning, painting and organizing the room of a boy who has gone from a child to a teen.
Jesse starts high school in just 6 days. He had his first official job this summer and he earned his first paycheck. He went scuba diving for the first time just this very week. These are some wonder years, truly.
Despite our natural propensity to want to keep him close, we’re making the changes to his room as a symbol of this new stage of his life. We’re acknowledging–with a mixture of wistfulness and excitement–that he’ll be taking more and more independent steps from here on out.
How do we let our eldest child–he who is so beloved–step out onto this new road? How do we let him walk through the big, unfamiliar doors of a school where he will surely be one of the youngest students? How do we simply watch him join the throngs of strangers, trusting that he will capably make his way through uncharted territory?
There is no how.
We simply do.
We know that we cannot let our anxieties obstruct his eager progress.
This is the natural way of life’s unfolding. This is what God intended for us to experience in the often difficult dance between intimacy and independence.
So I deliberately don’t focus on all of the things that my boys will encounter on a daily basis that I simply cannot control.
I try to trust and hope and let them be them.
After all, they are pretty fantastic.
And yet this is a novice’s attempt at faith and parenting and letting go when compared to the one soon to be faced by my new blogging friend–who just happens to live in Charlotte–Jennifer Richardson.
She writes here, on her blog Ripplespeak, about what would be one of the hardest letting gos a mother could ever face. She calls it “Tending into the Turn:”
~~~~Please wrap this warrior poet in arms bigger than mine
and hold him close to the tender light
and love him whole even in breaking
….. cover him with your bright wings
and bring him home safe to us again~~~~~
Prayers for you, Jennifer. Prayers and peace across the miles, new friend.
May I have such courage each and every time I too am tending into the turn.
I have few distinct memories from my very early childhood but I do remember one in particular: My mother looking at me with tears running down her cheeks, with Judy Collins on the record player in the background, singing Turn Around.
Did I imagine this?
I don’t think so. Regardless, I know that my mom loved listening to Judy Collins and I am sure that the lyrics went straight to her heart.
As they do mine. The song’s an absolute heartbreaker.
TURN AROUND (Malvina Reynolds, Harry Belafonte, & Allen Greene) --------------------------------------------------------------- Where are you going, my little one, little one Where are you going, my baby, my own? Turn around and you're two, turn around and you're four Turn around and you're a young girl going out of my door Turn around, turn around Turn around and you're a young girl going out of my door Where are you going, my little one, little one Little dirndls and petticoats, where have you gone? Turn around and you're tiny, turn around and you're grown Turn around and you're a young wife with babes of your own Turn around, turn around Turn around and you're a young wife with babes of your own Turn around, turn around Turn around and you're the young girl going out of the door Where are you going, my little one, little one Where are you going, my ba-by, my own?
Where does the time go?
One of the most melancholy aspects of life is the fact that we cannot slow down time. We can’t even put it on pause for a moment. Try as we might, there is no way to hold on to anything, no matter how beautiful it is. Nothing is constant except change.
And so, obviously, we cannot stop our children from growing up.
This week marked the end of the school year and with it we recognized the passing of all sorts of milestones.
Dylan finished up 1st grade at Armatage Montessori School with the fabulous Miss Jean. He’s reading chapter books like an addict. With both front teeth missing and getting lankier by the day, he has definitely entered a new stage of childhood. Thank goodness he still loves morning cuddles in our bed!
Here was his breakfast request for the last day of school:
Jesse graduated from 8th grade, which means that high school is just thirteen short weeks away. How could this be so? I’m grateful that he still wants to hold hands with his mother. Despite the occasional attitude, this kid is a total charmer.
These milestones are accompanied by a painful reality; we realize afresh that time is passing. Swiftly.
And four years from now?
Jesse will graduate from high school. He will be getting ready to head off to college. And our time with him will be limited to holidays and school breaks and summer vacation in Tobermory.
Having our children seven years apart has given us the opportunity to stretch out the milestones a little.
Still, in four years Dylan will be starting middle school.
Where does the time go?
My boys, if only I could keep you just as you are right now for a while longer.
But I know that I will turn around and you’ll be different.
(Still wonderful, but different.)
Just moments from now.